Tuesday, September 3, 2013

On Time and Poetry...

Occasionally, I read a post that jogs me back to that place where I enjoy writing for writing's sake; writing for myself as an exercise of soul exploration where I revel in the use of words. This time that post was by Bill Peebles of IHopeIWinAToaster. It is most often he or Brian Sorrell of Dadding Full Time who send me waltzing down these introspective forays so far from the clickety, clicky link bait and short funnies I plant more frequently in my word garden blog. Words hold a power, not so much for their meaning (which is secondary as Dylan Thomas will tell you), but for their feel and the excursion they send you on. When reading books I usually find the ride is comfortable, if unpredictable. Some books read like a slow hay ride on a fall day while sipping on warm-spiced cider, others are more like a white-knuckled revolution of a wooden roller coaster but they both have a track and a destination which is known to the author and those who have come before you. There are many voyages to take in a good book and it is hard to surpass the adventure of those worlds, but when it comes to poetry there is no beaten path, there is no comfortable seat, there is not even the reassurance that others have been down this road and found it to be one thing or another. Poetry works differently on each mind. Like a raindrop on a windshield; there is no predicting the path, no way of knowing what other droplets will be collected on the way or if they will evaporate before making it to some unknown destination. In poetry, there is only a void defined by words that might take you to the heavens for a look about or toss you into the abyss of self-reflection without a thought of what errands you were supposed to run today.

Bill pointed out a feeling I share in his post, that reading poetry can come off as "uppity, fancy or self-indulgent." It is true that reading and reflecting can actually leave me with a feeling of guilt as I think of the day to day grind of my wife and others who punch the clock the day in and day out. I am grateful I have the time to enjoy these pleasures which seem of so little import on the face of it. Poetry brings about close inspection and on it's surface may seem a perfect waste of time, but that thought changes quickly when you find yourself reaching blindly for the last chance of purchase before you cross the threshold into the abyss like "The Race" by Sharon Olds. Time is a blessing. To be able to focus my mind during some of the "down time" on issues of the world, concerns of my soul and the ponderings which have troubled great thinkers for ages is one of the unexpected bonuses of the at-home parent gig. Who knew being a full-time father would lead me down the road of modern day amateur philosopher? I'm thankful to know so many thoughtful parents and, even 4.5 years in, I am still pleasantly surprised to find so many referred to diminutively as "homemakers" who are actually philosophers and warrior poets helping bring insight and the fruits of self-examination to offspring, spouses, friends and themselves.

Reading poetry in Bill's article and in preparation for this one left me wondering about the feeling of the word "Daddy" in the minds of my children. I know it has little to do with the meaning I wish upon it and everything to do with my children's perceptions of me. When they are old enough to articulate the feelings that "Daddy" stirs within them, I hope they think of love, comfort, adoration, enthusiasm, interest, gentle guidance and an awareness of my own  imperfections. Those are my wishes... like pennies tossed into an abyss, the truth of their final resting will remain a mystery.

I want to leave you with two works to think about this week. One is a mystery, as are all great works of poetry; It might make your soul shine or it might make you wonder at the depths of the abyss. The latter is to remind me that my writing is a self-indulgence and that, no matter the philosopher I like imagine myself, that I never take myself too seriously. 

With Kit, Age 7, at the Beach
by William Stafford

We would climb the highest dune,
from there to gaze and come down:
the ocean was performing;
we contributed our climb.

Waves leapfrogged and came
straight out of the storm.
What should our gaze mean?
Kit waited for me to decide.

Standing on such a hill,
what would you tell your child?
That was an absolute vista.
Those waves raced far, and cold.

'How far could you swim, Daddy,
in such a storm?'
'As far as was needed,' I said, 
and as I talked, I swam.  

Danse Russe
by William Carlos Williams

If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely,
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-
Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

Both of these poems can be found in The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart published by Harper Collins in 1992, edited by Robert Bly, James Hillman and Michael Meade and thanks again to Bill for blowing the dust off this collection for me.


  1. "I am lonely, lonely,
    I was born to be lonely,
    I am best so!"

    I nearly used that Carlos poem, but decided the image of me dancing "naked, grotesquely" was little too much for my readers.

    Thank you for thinking of me, it's a big, bloggy world in which there is so little softness. Your kindness lifts my heart.

  2. I love posts in which the writers write for the love of writing.

  3. Thanks, JackB and thanks for reading!

  4. You're too kind, Bill. Thanks for the inspiration and pointing more toward that poetry collection!